Former ME: Erin Maxwell Was Strangled

OSWEGO, NY – According to a retired medical examiner, Erin Maxwell died from strangulation.

Dr. Mary Jumbelic, the ME who performed the autopsy on Erin in August 2008, testified in court today that the cause of death was strangulation, not accidental hanging as Erin’s stepbrother claims.

The doctor, who retired last February from her position as Onondaga County’s Chief Medical Examiner, was the main witness Thursday afternoon in Alan Jones’ murder trial.

Jones is charged with second-degree murder in the death of his 11-year-old stepsister, Erin Maxwell, last summer.

Under questioning by Oswego County District Attorney Donald Dodd, the doctor testified that the ligature marks on Erin’s neck indicate she was strangled.

They go all the way around and are almost an equal distance from the earlobes on both sides, the doctor testified.

Dodd asked if that enabled the doctor to determine Erin’s cause of death.

Yes, the doctor replied, asphyxiation.

“The ligature marks aren’t consistent with hanging,” she pointed out.

She also stated that the injuries depicted in photos of the 11-year-old were very unlikely caused by medical intervention.

Defense attorney Sal Lanza argued that there was a “void” in the back of Erin’s neck because the marks didn’t completely encircle the child’s neck.

He sought to prove his point by showing photos of the back of Erin’s neck. However, only one was taken during the autopsy.

He rebuked authorities for not taking more than one photo.

“It demonstrated what we needed to show,” the doctor told him of the decision to take just the one snapshot.

The defense attorney questioned about the bruises seen in the photos of Erin inferring they were caused by the EMTs and doctors working on Erin and not by an attack by her stepbrother.

“I can say with a reasonable degree of medical certainty that none of those injuries were due to medical intervention,” the doctor testified.

The cross examination continued to grow nerve-racking as Lanza began going over the doctor’s autopsy report line by line trying to poke holes in it.

“I stand by my report,” she said.

Instead of answering yes or no at times, she’d respond if that is what she wrote ion her report that’s it. Lanza would press her until she responded yes or no.

At one point, Lanza complained the witness was being sarcastic, and Oswego County Court Judge Walter Hafner agreed.

The judge told her to refrain from using any more sarcasm.

“I didn’t mean to. I’m sorry. I apologize to the court,” she said.

“You’ve been demeaning and rude to me ever since I started asking questions,” Lanza said, and then shouting, “Now I’m the one asking questions!”

Following the outburst, Hafner recessed the court until Friday morning.

The witness met with the DA and a couple of court attendants for a few moments after leaving the stand. She then exited through the side door used by the judge instead of coming back up through the courtroom, past Lanza and Jones, to leave though the main doors of the courtroom.